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5 things that made 2024 Australian Grand Prix worth watching

Finally, a race without Max Verstappen in the lead

Max Verstappen didn't hold on to the lead for long. PHOTO FROM FORMULA 1

What happens when you take Max Verstappen (Red Bull) out of a current-era Formula 1 race? You get the 2024 Australian Grand Prix. The previous two events were predictable as to who would win. But things went topsy-turvy in the race down under. So, here are five things that made the grand prix interesting.

Williams's pragmatic choice is telling of the team's desperation. PHOTO FROM FORMULA 1

1. Alex Albon drove his teammate’s car. After crashing in Free Practice 1, Williams announced that the Thai driver would be using the car of his teammate Logan Sargeant due to the lack of a spare chassis. The team admitted that it was a tough decision, but it must have been even harder on the American driver, who had to miss a race through no fault of his own.

“There are five teams that are within a point of each other, because there has only been one point available for us to score,” said team principal James Vowles. “The top five teams are so competitive now that that’s what’s left on the table, and the difference between being sixth in the championship at the end of the year and 10th, I think, will reside down to a point or two. That’s a large gap that we’re all scrapping over.”

That certainly doesn’t exemplify sportsmanship. But we must remember that Formula 1 is just as much a business as it is a competition. A constructor’s standing could spell a difference worth millions of dollars in prize money, which is why every point counts.

In hindsight, this didn’t amount to anything good as Albon finished in P11. But Vowles was proven right as the double-points result of Haas puts it four points ahead of Williams, Sauber, and Alpine, which all have yet to score a single point.

It was like Max was driving with the handbrake engaged. PHOTO FROM FORMULA 1

2. Max Verstappen was on fire. You know the usual narrative. “It’s lights out, and away we go!” And then Verstappen storms off in the lead. However, that wasn’t the case this time.

The Dutchman’s vehicle had a brake issue with the rear right being locked up. This not only threw the defending champion’s car off-balance, but also heated the wheel. By Lap 5, the three-time world champ ended his race—along with his streaks of winning the last nine races and finishing the previous 43 contests.

George Russell was caught off-guard by Fernando Alonso's error. PHOTO FROM FORMULA 1

3. Mercedes-AMG got a double DNF. This weekend was one to forget for Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes-AMG). After failing to get out of Q2 (qualifying for P11 only), the seven-time champion suffered an engine failure on Lap 17.

This left his teammate George Russell as the only contender for the Silver Arrows for the rest of the race. Toward the end, the British driver was chasing Fernando Alonso (Aston Martin) for P6. But an error from the Spanish driver resulted in Russell crashing on the last lap.

It's strange that the race winner doesn't have a seat for next season. PHOTO FROM FORMULA 1

4. Carlos Sainz had a smooth victory. Despite the fact he was still recovering from surgery, Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) found himself in the front row after qualifying for P2. With one appendix less, the Smooth Operator passed Verstappen and built a sizable gap, allowing him to sail smoothly to victory. His teammate Charles Leclerc ended the race in P2 resulting in a 1-2 finish for Ferrari.

Do you think Alonso would have been penalized even if Russell didn't crash? PHOTO FROM FORMULA 1

5. Fernando Alonso was issued a controversial post-race penalty. Although Alonso only qualified P10, he was able to capitalize on the virtual safety car following Hamilton’s engine issue. By the closing stages of the race, he was in P6 far behind the Ferraris, the McLarens, and the Red Bull of Sergio Perez.

However, he did have Russell for company, who was closing in on him on the last lap. Alonso was desperate to get a clean exit at Turn 6, and his misjudgment caused him to slow down much earlier than expected. And when the gap suddenly closed at the apex, the Mercedes-AMG driver found himself right behind the green car.

With less downforce due to the dirty air, the Mercedes-AMG driver lost grip and crashed. Despite the lack of contact, Alonso received a 20-second penalty supposedly for driving unnecessarily slowly and dangerously. This demoted him to P8, behind his teammate Lance Stroll in P6 and Yuki Tsunoda (VCARB) in P7.

In the end, Verstappen scored nothing, yet he still leads the standings. Meanwhile, Ferrari trails behind Red Bull by only four points. The next race will be the 2024 Japanese Grand Prix on April 7 (1pm, Philippine time).

Leandro Mangubat

Leandro is our staff writer. Although having a background in mechanical engineering, he enjoys photography and writing more.